State of the World

Hey, all, sorry it's been a while, but I've been incredibly busy as per usual. I know, I know -- I still have pictures to scan in and all sorts of other rigmarole.

Since I last wrote, I've become unemployed - again (anybody need a UNIX Man For All Seasons, a session keyboardist/guitarist/mandolin player/singer, a freelance artist?) and have spent weekends working down at Casa de Fruta, just north of Hollister, CA, as the manager of the Brass Rubbings booth. It's been my first interpersonal outlet in four years. Wow, I'd forgotten what social fresh air felt like!

In other news. Well, the world is a huge mess, which is something I'm going to attempt to address in this page. Perhaps I do complain and not act; I'm never sure what I can do to make this world a better place. Just being myself doesn't seem to be enough for the people who want to see the world change for the better, and it's too much for the people who are changing it for the worse. It seems I cannot win this one. Full speed ahead, then...as usual, comments and queries are accepted.

So, what are we doing?

Okay, clue me in here. Let me make sure I have my facts straight, first.

  • The President wants to wage war, full-scale, on Iraq.
  • The President wants to continue, indefinitely, a war on terrorism which will probably be ultimately as successful as the war on drugs, which has proven to cost untold sums of money and has only served to further the purpose and profit by the religious right.
  • The economy in the tech industry continues to slump, and the job market in every other industry on the face of the planet has seen a glut of people who are eminently unqualified to enter any other industry, and so they are stuck, with no help forthcoming on cross-training for any occupations which will sustain them and their families. But I digress.

We're doing this why, exactly? Whatever happened to Osama Bin Laden? Whatever happened to focusing on the initial threat of terrorism which brought down the twin towers?

Hello? Anyone? Bueller? ...Bueller?

So, okay, we're preparing to engage in a full-scale assault on Iraq. Does anyone else find it suspicious that we're doing this in a mid-term election year?

...how about that the figurehead who is "initiating" the action happens to be the son of the last President who went after Iraq?

And what of Bin Laden and the Al-Qaeda? What's up with them?

...and who's funding them?

I'm sure you're all familiar with the practice of arson by firemen who are out of work and have nothing to do to fill their time. They set fires in the hopes that they'll be called to help deal with it. These fires claim the homes and, in some form or other, the lives of the very people the firemen are supposed to be protecting. Untold damage is done. Materially, it's a drop in the bucket. 80% of everything is replaceable. The things that are not replaceable are the photographs taken years ago, the memories of growing up in their houses, or the memories of spending summer vacations in "the place that used to have trees".

By comparison, does anyone else find it so completely and totally out of the question that the Al-Qaeda is still alive and kicking and in our country and is probably turning into something of an inside operation?

Face it. Our government is a bored entity, for some stupid reason or other. If they can't get their jollies out of eroding our civil liberties, or of getting in the face of the Mommenpops who define the very character of our country, what we used to stand for, they're going to take us to war, like it or not.

I think Roosevelt knew about Pearl Harbor before it happened.

I think our current administration -- and its father's -- knew about 9/11/2001 before it happened.

Throwing a war is a dicey proposition. In Roosevelt's case, he threw us into the war, and it worked. We rebounded from the worst economic circumstance this country had ever seen to become the mover and shaker of the latter half of the 20th century.

Whomever decided to toss us into Viet Nam made a VERY poor choice. We had no public support for that war in the lower eschalons.

In Bush Sr.'s case, the net effect of us attacking Iraq was null, and the Cold War was over already by that time.

In Bush Jr.'s case, economically, it didn't work. Our economy was just seeing signs of possibly recovering and thriving again, and it wasn't 9/11 that kicked us down again. It was our declaration of war, that we were going to pursue the terrorists until we stopped them, regardless of the cost, I think, that has kicked us down again.

The fact that our current administration is technophobic isn't helping matters, either.

...so why, exactly, again, are we going after Iraq?

To gain a foothold "over there" and take over the planet, bit by bit by bit?

I'm going to say something that many people will not like to hear.

I hope we lose this war we're starting. I hope we lose it in a big way -- big enough to force us to close our doors and regroup internally. Big enough to show us that we're NOT the greatest nation on the planet, and big enough to show us that we need to take care of the things with this country which are seriously wrong on all levels.

Economically, we need to bring the costs of education, health care and livable housing back into line with reality. The minimum wage keeps going up, but the cost of living rises exponentially in comparison.

Ecologically, we need to start pursuing alternate forms of energy with a vengeance.

Spiritually, we need to stop exerting a Puritanical stranglehold on any beliefs which are non-conforming.

Morally, I think we need to practice what we preach.

Ethically, we need to stop promoting big business while squashing the little guy.

I'm going to digress. I may or may not return.

I saw something posted by a friend of mine recently. It had to do with a cross-talk of God in/out of public places and child discipline in/out of the hands of the parents and the people who have to raise them.

Personally, I think that the two have nothing to do with each other. God doesn't belong in our state-run places. Spirituality is a very personal thing. I won't fault you for believing in your God, or worshipping him or whatever, so long as you don't come around my house with an angry mob with pitchforks and torches "in the name of God". Take responsibility for your own actions, please.

Discipline is another matter. We've come to coddle our children, catering to their every whim. "Physical discipline is bad," we are told. Well, to a certain extent, sure. Getting rapped on the hand with a ruler isn't right at all -- that's seriously damaging. (Of course the insult is that it's because your child is evil for writing with the left hand!). On the other hand, a spanking or a very firm talking-to followed by a very firm placement into a time-out spot is not at all out of line.

The Government does not see things this way. They have taken all the teeth out of parental and community discipline. It's all well and good for us to say "Now, Johnny, don't punch Kevin," and "Now, Andrea, don't pull Katarina's hair", isn't it? But you can't give their butt a whack if they're really uncontrollably out of line to the point where nothing else will register. That's "child abuse" and can land you in hot water with Health and Human Services, the Child Protection division.

I have words for this, and I'm enough of a gentleman not to print them on this page, but the literal translation equates to "Feces from the Bovine of the Male persuasion".

Needless to clarify, but I will anyway, I'm not a big fan of "hands-off management" of children. We must be allowed to set some very hard guidelines for them that they must not cross. It seems hypocritical to say "Don't hurt someone" and then turn around and smack the kid, but we're not doing this to hurt them as much as we need to be able to get their attention and show them that this is not right. If you're spanking the kid to hurt them, to show you're stronger than they are, or out of anger, you're not doing it right.

We've spent a generation and a half in hands-off child-rearing. What DO we have to show for it? Although childrearing isn't the only issue at hand, here, it's a contributor to the cause. We have gangs, violent career criminals at levels the country hasn't seen since the era of prohibition, and they end up in this way because nobody had the authority at that time to demonstrate the difference between right and wrong.

Another reason that we have this happening to our children is because we don't have the money to survive in this nation anymore. Most households are double-income households, and because the divorce rate is skyrocketing, they are turning into single-provider households, the head of EACH, now, which must achieve an income double that of which they had been earning just to cover the cost of the living space (they EACH have one now, remember!), as well as the fact that both sides are still paying for the children in one way or another.

We now have nobody at home to watch the children.

And there is no money forthcoming to help care for the children after school because we're all away working to support them and pay taxes which are supposed to be going to the programs which would help care for them after school, but the taxes aren't going there...


(ha! I came back!) What is UP with this!?!? Why is the Bush clan SO OBSESSED with this whole Iraq thing, forgetting about their original cockamamie plan against Osama Bin Laden, that they can't see that this conflict is going to result in the death of a country which was based on tenets far nobler than they could ever perceive?

...did I just answer my own question?


Divining History Through Music

(or, What Will The Aliens Think?)

Something has been a recurring theme in my deeper thoughts through the years that I've been able to have deeper thoughts -- that is to say, since I was about twelve or so (born old, aging well, for the most part, but I digress).

As I have gone through life listening and looking about me, I have noticed the odd connection between the times and the music thereof. Music in 1974 was well out of the drug-induced stupor of the sixties, which had its own brand of music -- music that made a statement, and a very strong one. Music that I listened to in 1974 was different than what everyone else was listening to. My Mom (waves, "Hi, Mom!") had brought home some new music that caught my ear. It was Ragtime. Scott Joplin: The Red Back Book, and Joshua Rifkin plays Scott Joplin (I'm not certain of that last title, but I remember it all very well...)

I had discovered Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass by this time, and I thought the sun rose and set with them. I even got to see them at the (now closed) Circle Star Theatre in San Carlos, CA (I even found the autographs I got from that show).

Now, at that time, Ragtime music (yes, it deserves very much the same reverence as Progressive Rock, Rock and Roll and John Philip Sousa -- with all of which I grew up, but...) was just another happy sound in my life. I loved its intricacies, and yet its simplicity made it accessable to a budding and very impressionable young musician who could pick up things by ear (but couldn't sight-read his way out of a croissant). It was magical. It wasn't until much much later in life that I would draw the connection of the sound of the music to the era in which it flourished.

It's by and large happy music. Very very happy-go-lucky, in almost as much as people were having a good time, they were also trying to forget their problems. And it had all the markings of the bars in which it was most often played.

Now it was considered most often "coloured people's music", as near as my memory and recollection of research can divine. The good, upstanding moral white majority wanted nothing to do with it, by and large -- or so they gave the impression. It's quite obvious that this wasn't true; the Gershwin Brothers were influenced by it; and hey, what about Porgy and Bess, hm?

And has anyone listened to the sounds of music between 1890 and 1910? Ragtime draws some blindingly obvious connections to them. I think these people wanted to remember, to bring back the good times that the music embodied.

As I grew older, I started, of course, listening to the music which was popular at the time. I mean, really, who wasn't listening to the radio when they were growing up? Anyone growing up in 1976 thru 1980 was probably tuning into a top-forty AM station and catching all the music that was happening. "Fly Like An Eagle", by the Steve Miller Band; "Love Will Keep Us Together", by The Captain & Tennille; "The Things We Do For Love", by Hall and Oates. All very indicative of the times in which the music was written, very laid back, not too terribly much of an edge to it, but not so dull as to be a waste of time. It was pop. Popular music, the stuff that MOST of the universe listened to.

By 1978, the glory of our country's bicentennial had waned a tad (even though it really should have carried on through 1989), and harder elements began to filter into the mainstream. Firstly, AM/FM radios had become more commonplace, replacing the AM-only boxes which had been the norm. Secondly, youth yearned for more of an edge, more of a voice, and they got it -- in AC/DC, Van Halen, Rush, War, the Scorpions, and of course the plenitude of punk bands which were beginning to form, such as The Clash and others. The Progressive Rock swung into the mainstream with music from Styx and Supertramp, among others.

In 1980, Jimmy Carter was elected out of office to be succeeded by Ronald Reagan, and music changed again -- it got harsher, more shocking (along with the attire which went with it) in reaction to what was being passed down as the status quo. The world seemed just a bit darker. We started getting some serious creativity arising out of a generation who hoped to change the world and turn the establishment on its ear, to tell it to take a hike. In 1984, for example, we got some serious proof that the world WASN'T ending at this time, that imagination was still strong, and that we were still drawing on the lessons taught to us by the previous generation as far as how to go about changing the world (and, of course, how not to). We saw the rise and fall of Blondie, and the Police finished up on about the same note (with the notable exception of being wise enough to bow out gracefully and go their own separate ways). The Eagles had split up, and Don Henley and Glenn Frey were making their own directions. Each of these groups addressed a certain kind of angst in the newer generation, whether it was a worldly concern or a personal one.

From 1984 to 1988, with Reagan re-elected, we took a slight downturn again, but people never lost hope. We got some good -- and very poignant -- music from the likes of David Bowie, U2, Peter Gabriel. We also saw a comeback from Crosby, Stills, and Nash, Jackson Browne and several other "cause musicians" -- the ones who come back and perform for causes such as the Christic Institute, Amnesty International and others who attempted to further the restoration of human rights.

In 1988, we got George H. Dubya. What is astounding, musically, is that for the next four years, we didn't seem to have a musical direction, a trend that is reoccurring now. I mean, sure, out came cRap music (the 'c' is usually invisible), with its explicit lyrics, and an attitude that, to this day, I find horribly oppressive. But it's dark, and it communicates through a generation that feels as though it has no hope, nothing to move toward, nothing that it can possibly contribute that will make the world a better place to live. Even the Cause Performers were losing hope at that point, or the people were losing enough hope that they didn't want to see false ones raised.

I will also note that, while it was dark during Clinton's terms in office, it seemed that creativity was somewhat encouraged. We got alternative rock out of it, those pieces which basically took a musical ice pick and shoved it firmly through the ear of the establishment, and we got grunge rock -- the whiny self-serving anthems of Generation X proclaiming that no matter what they try to do, nothing seems to work.

...and since Dumb Dubya got shoehorned into office (I still don't know what he's doing there, anyone? Anyone? Bueller? ...Bueller?), we're back into the doldrums. If anything, the music has become more self- serving (in the case of the mellower stuff), or more violent and socially condemning (in the case of cRap). By the same token that the music is teaching our children to lose hope, to lose faith in the goodness of the mortal race inhabiting our planet, the children are not stupid. They are picking up on the general malaise that is affecting our country in general.

I have some degree of faith that somehow, the people are going to wake up, and when they do, and they smell the artificially flavoured pasteurised coffee food product, I wonder what tales the music will tell then.

Maybe my friends and I should start writing it now. Maybe we can nudge it in the right direction.

Got a match?


Gore Vidal, Last Defender of the Republic

(but then, you knew that.)

A friend of mine from high school sent me this particular article today. Normally, I don't pay too much attention to this sort of thing, as the word 'republican' offends my senses in roughly the same way as might the defensive discharge of a skunk at close range.

Normally, too, I'm not wont to reprint copyrighted material. Song lyrics seem to be an exception, but thus far I have not been duly chastised for having done so; I'm not in this to make or steal money. I'm doing all this stuff to make a point, usually one associated with a piece of artwork or a fleeting mood which associates well with said lyrics or other material. Most copyrighted artwork is kept purely so that I can have a pretty looking desktop. Google makes a great search engine for this stuff. But I digress...

However, this is really worth a read. It's an unauthorised redistribution of a Los Angeles Weekly article for the week of 5-11 July 2002 (note: I am not a glutton for punishment; if anyone on L.A. Weekly staff finds it reprehensible that I am posting this on my website in the hopes of making a few people a little more aware of what's going on in this country, please, by all means, feel free to contact me. My contact information is easily enough located, or just bug the webmaster (me), and let's have a meaningful discussion about this...).

I think Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were absolutely brilliant, driven men; I would that the human race would once again spawn such inspired minds capable of putting themselves in positions of leverage to further the good of the world by overthrowing the tyranny in their vicinity. Recruit me. I'll help in just about any way I can.

Franklin said it best: "Those who would sacrifice liberty for temporary safety in a time of crisis deserve neither liberty nor safety."

We are sitting on a powder keg that is must waiting for some idiot with a match to light it (hey, can I borrow a match?).

Without further ado, it's an interview with Gore Vidal. It was, to me, a rather enlightening read. Enjoy. I invite comments from anyone abroad as to the veracity of the foreign perspective of America.

HE MIGHT BE AMERICA'S LAST small-r republican. Gore Vidal, now 76, has made a lifetime out of critiquing America's imperial impulses and has -- through two dozen novels and hundreds of essays -- argued tempestuously that the U.S. should retreat back to its more Jeffersonian roots, that it should stop meddling in the affairs of other nations and the private affairs of its own citizens.

That's the thread that runs through Vidal's latest best-seller -- an oddly packaged collection of essays published in the wake of September 11 titled Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace: How We Got To Be So Hated. To answer the question in his subtitle, Vidal posits that we have no right to scratch our heads over what motivated the perpetrators of the two biggest terror attacks in our history, the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and last September's twin-tower holocaust.

Vidal writes: "It is a law of physics (still on the books when last I looked) that in nature there is no action without reaction. The same appears to be true in human nature -- that is, history." The "action" Vidal refers to is the hubris of an American empire abroad (illustrated by a 20-page chart of 200 U.S. overseas military adventures since the end of World War II) and a budding police state at home. The inevitable "reaction," says Vidal, is nothing less than the bloody handiwork of Osama bin Laden and Timothy McVeigh. "Each was enraged," he says, "by our government's reckless assaults upon other societies" and was, therefore, "provoked" into answering with horrendous violence.

Some might take that to be a suggestion that America had it coming on September 11. So when I met up with Vidal in the Hollywood Hills home he maintains (while still residing most of his time in Italy), the first question I asked him was this:

L.A. WEEKLY: Are you arguing that the 3,000 civilians killed on September 11 somehow deserved their fate?

GORE VIDAL:I don't think we, the American people, deserved what happened. Nor do we deserve the sort of governments we have had over the last 40 years. Our governments have brought this upon us by their actions all over the world. I have a list in my new book that gives the reader some idea how busy we have been. Unfortunately, we only get disinformation from The New York Times and other official places. Americans have no idea of the extent of their government's mischief. The number of military strikes we have made unprovoked, against other countries, since 1947-48 is more than 250. These are major strikes everywhere from Panama to Iran. And it isn't even a complete list. It doesn't include places like Chile, as that was a CIA operation. I was only listing military attacks.

Americans are either not told about these things or are told we attacked them because . . . well . . . Noriega is the center of all world drug traffic and we have to get rid of him. So we kill some Panamanians in the process. Actually we killed quite a few. And we brought in our Air Force. Panama didn't have an air force. But it looked good to have our Air Force there, busy, blowing up buildings. Then we kidnap their leader, Noriega, a former CIA man who worked loyally for the United States. We arrest him. Try him in an American court that has no jurisdiction over him and lock him up -- nobody knows why. And that was supposed to end the drug trade because he had been demonized by The New York Times and the rest of the imperial press.

[The government] plays off [Americans'] relative innocence, or ignorance to be more precise. This is probably why geography has not really been taught since World War II -- to keep people in the dark as to where we are blowing things up. Because Enron wants to blow them up. Or Unocal, the great pipeline company, wants a war going some place.

And people in the countries who are recipients of our bombs get angry. The Afghans had nothing to do with what happened to our country on September 11. But Saudi Arabia did. It seems like Osama is involved, but we don't really know. I mean, when we went into Afghanistan to take over the place and blow it up, our commanding general was asked how long it was going to take to find Osama bin Laden. And the commanding general looked rather surprised and said, well, that's not why we are here.

Oh no? So what was all this about? It was about the Taliban being very, very bad people and that they treated women very badly, you see. They're not really into women's rights, and we here are very strong on women's rights; and we should be with Bush on that one because he's taking those burlap sacks off of women's heads. Well, that's not what it was about.

What it was really about -- and you won't get this anywhere at the moment -- is that this is an imperial grab for energy resources. Until now, the Persian Gulf has been our main source for imported oil. We went there, to Afghanistan, not to get Osama and wreak our vengeance. We went to Afghanistan partly because the Taliban -- whom we had installed at the time of the Russian occupation -- were getting too flaky and because Unocal, the California corporation, had made a deal with the Taliban for a pipeline to get the Caspian- area oil, which is the richest oil reserve on Earth. They wanted to get that oil by pipeline through Afghanistan to Pakistan to Karachi and from there to ship it off to China, which would be enormously profitable. Whichever big company could cash in would make a fortune. And you'll see that all these companies go back to Bush or Cheney or to Rumsfeld or someone else on the Gas and Oil Junta, which, along with the Pentagon, governs the United States.

We had planned to occupy Afghanistan in October, and Osama, or whoever it was who hit us in September, launched a pre-emptory strike. They knew we were coming. And this was a warning to throw us off guard.

With that background, it now becomes explicable why the first thing Bush did after we were hit was to get Senator Daschle and beg him not to hold an investigation of the sort any normal country would have done. When Pearl Harbor was struck, within 20 minutes the Senate and the House had a joint committee ready. Roosevelt beat them to it, because he knew why we had been hit, so he set up his own committee. But none of this was to come out, and it hasn't come out.

LAW:Still, even if one reads the chart of military interventions in your book and concludes that, indeed, the U.S. government is a "source of evil" -- to lift a phrase -- can't you conceive that there might be other forces of evil as well? Can't you imagine forces of religious obscurantism, for example, that act independently of us and might do bad things to us, just because they are also evil?

Vidal: Oh yes. But you picked the wrong group. You picked one of the richest families in the world -- the bin Ladens. They are extremely close to the royal family of Saudi Arabia, which has conned us into acting as their bodyguard against their own people -- who are even more fundamentalist than they are. So we are dealing with a powerful entity if it is Osama.

What isn't true is that people like him just come out of the blue. You know, the average American thinks we just give away billions in foreign aid, when we are the lowest in foreign aid among developed countries. And most of what we give goes to Israel and a little bit to Egypt.

I was in Guatemala when the CIA was preparing its attack on the Arbenz government [in 1954]. Arbenz, who was a democratically elected president, mildly socialist. His state had no revenues; its biggest income maker was United Fruit Company. So Arbenz put the tiniest of taxes on bananas, and Henry Cabot Lodge got up in the Senate and said the Communists have taken over Guatemala and we must act. He got to Eisenhower, who sent in the CIA, and they overthrew the government. We installed a military dictator, and there's been nothing but bloodshed ever since.

Now, if I were a Guatemalan and I had the means to drop something on somebody in Washington, or anywhere Americans were, I would be tempted to do it. Especially if I had lost my entire family and seen my country blown to bits because United Fruit didn't want to pay taxes. Now, that's the way we operate. And that's why we got to be so hated.

LAW: You've spent decades bemoaning the erosion of civil liberties and the conversion of the U.S. from a republic into what you call an empire. Have the aftereffects of September 11, things like the USA Patriot bill, merely pushed us further down the road or are they, in fact, some sort of historic turning point?

Vidal: The second law of thermodynamics always rules: Everything is always running down. And so is our Bill of Rights. The current junta in charge of our affairs, one not legally elected, but put in charge of us by the Supreme Court in the interests of the oil and gas and defense lobbies, have used first Oklahoma City and now September 11 to further erode things.

And when it comes to Oklahoma City and Tim McVeigh, well, he had his reasons as well to carry out his dirty deed. Millions of Americans agree with his general reasoning, though no one, I think, agrees with the value of blowing up children. But the American people, yes, they instinctively know when the government goes off the rails like it did at Waco and Ruby Ridge. No one has been elected president in the last 50 years unless he ran against the federal government. So, the government should get through its head that it is hated not only by foreigners whose countries we have wrecked, but also by Americans whose lives have been wrecked.

The whole Patriot movement in the U.S. was based on folks run off their family farms. Or had their parents or grandparents run off. We have millions of disaffected American citizens who do not like the way the place is run and see no place in it where they can prosper. They can be slaves. Or pick cotton. Or whatever the latest uncomfortable thing there is to do. But they are not going to have, as Richard Nixon said, "a piece of the action."

LAW: And yet Americans seem quite susceptible to a sort of jingoistic "enemy-of-the-month club" coming out of Washington. You say millions of Americans hate the federal government. But something like 75 percent of Americans say they support George W. Bush, especially on the issue of the war. Vidal: I hope you don't believe those figures. Don't you know how the polls are rigged? It's simple. After 9/11 the country was really shocked and terrified. [Bush] does a little war dance and talks about evil axis and all the countries he's going to go after. And how long it is all going to take, he says with a happy smile, because it means billions and trillions for the Pentagon and for his oil friends. And it means curtailing our liberties, so this is all very thrilling for him. He's right out there reacting, bombing Afghanistan. Well, he might as well have been bombing Denmark. Denmark had nothing to do with 9/11. And neither did Afghanistan, at least the Afghanis didn't. So the question is still asked, are you standing tall with the president? Are you standing with him as he defends us? Eventually, they will figure it out.

LAW: They being who? The American people?

Vidal: Yeah, the American people. They are asked these quick questions. Do you approve of him? Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. Oh yeah, he blew up all those funny-sounding cities over there.

That doesn't mean they like him. Mark my words. He will leave office the most unpopular president in history. The junta has done too much wreckage.

They were suspiciously very ready with the Patriot Act as soon as we were hit. Ready to lift habeas corpus, due process, the attorney-client privilege. They were ready. Which means they have already got their police state. Just take a plane anywhere today and you are in the hands of an arbitrary police state.

LAW: Don't you want to have that kind of protection when you fly?

Vidal: It's one thing to be careful, and we certainly want airplanes to be careful against terrorist attacks. But this is joy for them, for the federal government. Now they've got everybody, because everybody flies.

LAW: Let's pick away at one of your favorite bones, the American media. Some say they have done a better-than-usual job since 9/11. But I suspect you're not buying that?

Vidal: No, I don't buy it. Part of the year I live in Italy. And I find out more about what's going on in the Middle East by reading the British, the French, even the Italian press. Everything here is slanted. I mean, to watch Bush doing his little war dance in Congress . . . about "evildoers" and this "axis of evil" -- Iran, Iraq and North Korea. I thought, he doesn't even know what the word axis means. Somebody just gave it to him. And the press didn't even call him on it. This is about as mindless a statement as you could make. Then he comes up with about a dozen other countries that might have "evil people" in them, who might commit "terrorist acts." What is a terrorist act? Whatever he thinks is a terrorist act. And we are going to go after them. Because we are good and they are evil. And we're "gonna git 'em."

Anybody who could get up and make that speech to the American people is not himself an idiot, but he's convinced we are idiots. And we are not idiots. We are cowed. Cowed by disinformation from the media, a skewed view of the world, and atrocious taxes that subsidize this permanent war machine. And we have no representation. Only the corporations are represented in Congress. That's why only 24 percent of the American people cast a vote for George W. Bush.

LAW: I know you'd hate to take this to the ad hominem level, but indulge me for a moment. What about George W. Bush, the man?

Vidal: You mean George W. Bush, the cheerleader. That's the only thing he ever did of some note in his life. He had some involvement with a baseball team . . .

LAW: He owned it . . .

Vidal: Yeah, he owned it, bought with other people's money. Oil people's money. So he's never really worked, and he shows very little capacity for learning. For them to put him up as president and for the Supreme Court to make sure that he won was as insulting as when his father, George Bush, appointed Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court -- done just to taunt the liberals. And then, when he picked Quayle for his vice president, that showed such contempt for the American people. This was someone as clearly unqualified as Bush Sr. was to be president. Because Bush Sr., as Richard Nixon said to a friend of mine when Bush was elected [imitating Nixon], "He's a lightweight, a complete lightweight, there's nothing there. He's a sort of person you appoint to things."

So the contempt for the American people has been made more vivid by the two Bushes than all of the presidents before them. Although many of them had the same contempt. But they were more clever about concealing it.

LAW: Should the U.S. just pack up its military from everywhere and go home?

Vidal: Yes. With no exceptions. We are not the world's policeman. And we cannot even police the United States, except to steal money from the people and generally wreak havoc. The police are perceived quite often, and correctly, in most parts of the country as the enemy. I think it is time we roll back the empire -- it is doing no one any good. It has cost us trillions of dollars, which makes me feel it's going to fold on its own because there isn't going to be enough money left to run it.

LAW: You call yourself one of the last defenders of the American Republic against the American Empire. Do you have any allies left? I mean, we really don't have a credible opposition in this country, do we?

Vidal: I sometimes feel like I am the last defender of the republic. There are plenty of legal minds who defend the Bill of Rights, but they don't seem very vigorous. I mean, after 9/11 there was silence as one after another of these draconian, really totalitarian laws were put in place.

LAW: So what's the way out of this? Back in the '80s you used to call for a new sort of populist constitutional convention. Do you still believe that's the fix?

Vidal: Well, it's the least bloody. Because there will be trouble, and big trouble. The loons got together to get a balanced-budget amendment, and they got a majority of states to agree to a constitutional convention. Senator Sam Ervin, now dead, researched what would happen in such a convention, and apparently everything would be up for grabs. Once we the people are assembled, as the Constitution requires, we can do anything, we can throw out the whole executive, the judiciary, the Congress. We can put in a Tibetan lama. Or turn the country into one big Scientological clearing center.

And the liberals, of course, are the slowest and the stupidest, because they do not understand their interests. The right wing are the bad guys, but they know what they want -- everybody else's money. And they know they don't like blacks and they don't like minorities. And they like to screw everyone along the way.

But once you know what you want, you are in a stronger position than those who can only say, "Oh no, you mustn't do that." That we must have free speech. Free speech for what? To agree with The New York Times?

The liberals always say, "Oh my, if there is a constitutional convention, they will take away the Bill of Rights." But they have already done it! It is gone. Hardly any of it is left. So if they, the famous "they," would prove to be a majority of the American people and did not want a Bill of Rights, then I say, let's just get it over with. Let's just throw it out the window. If you don't want it, you won't have it.

This article is reposted without permission; if someone with a legal stance objects to this; contact me. I would like to obtain permission, but felt the material in question was too timely to await a decision.


In God We Trust (All Others Pay Cash)

This God thing is really getting out of hand.

I mean, it's ALWAYS been overblown. Ever since the Nazarene walked the planet, got nailed to a tree, then mysteriously vanished after having been buried, there's been this obsession with the "True Divine" and "miracles".

Then the righteous started getting really righteous, and obsession is not a strong enough word to describe the actions to follow. I think it even transcended zeal.

In case you're new to this planet, I refer you to the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, the century immediately preceding the beginning of the Italian Renaissance, the Salem Witch Trials, and the Abortion Clinic Bombings, in no particular order of importance other than that's about the order they happened in.

I think there were other smaller events which transpired, but I'm not sure I have room to list them all.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not a God-hater or a would-be God-slayer or anything as completely bozotic as all that, although after having several large cosmic jokes played on me of late, I think I would like to have a word with said Creator -- and his Mother.

But I digress.

Of late, there's been this flap in the news about someone suing to get "...under God" removed from our pledge of allegiance on the grounds that it is unconstitutional.

I must confess that I applaud this individual. Ever since 1954, when the Cold War started, this country has been in a state of paranoia over letting people live their lives. Witness, e.g., the House Un-American Activities Committee, McCarthyism, blacklisting. You've probably read about it all. If you haven't, do. It's a blood-chilling read more sobering than any murder mystery -- or real-life murder case. Study it. Read about how the Fear of Communism -- and Fear of a Godless State -- brought about a great deal of rules and regulations and abridgements of that nice little passage in the Constitution guaranteeing separation of Church and State.

They make the motions, saying that religious groups are not allowed in public schools, regardless of denomination. They'd probably come in and harass a student for making a religious observation of five minutes of silence or chant or prayer or whatever during lunchtime, if they could monitor everyone, just to make sure they didn't transgress that Constitutional line. Wouldn't matter if you were Wiccan, Pagan, Christian, Muslim, whatever.

But since 1954, there's been this line about "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. Here, let me see if I can recall how it's supposed to go. This is the old one; all the new garbage has been stricken. "I pledge allegiance to my the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, with Liberty and Justice for all."

Now, what's so hard about that?

I have a remnant of a lighter age. Actually, thanks to Dad, I have several of them, but this one in particular is a find. I think I'll have it framed.

It's a 1950 issue five dollar silver certificate which reads: "The United States of America will pay to the bearer on demand

Other than that, it's an ordinary fiver. Lincoln's face, the Abe Lincoln Memorial Stadium and Hot Dog Stand, the whole works. Certainly not the ugly hack job of late. It's a beautiful piece of work.

Nowhere on the front or the back of this note does it state, in any way shape or form, anything about God. No "IN GOD WE TRUST". Nothing. It just guarantees that the United States, presumably its treasury, will pay the bearer -- me -- five dollars upon demand and likely surrender of said note, even though it does not state explicitly that I need to forfeit the note to get the five dollars. But I digress.

I had an interesting campfire revival experience when I was about four. I was out camping and singing songs and some of them started turning to the folksy religious ones. Even at age four, I felt very unnerved, very disquieted. I don't know why, but religion has always bothered me. I state that, by and large, I am spiritual, and not religious. Religion is spirituality with military funding and herd mentality. This is not something that is conducive to social well being.

To this day, I can appreciate the beauty in the architecture of the old buildings, the churches and cathedrals, but I can not handle being present to witness a mass or a sermon. It reeks of hypocrisy, shame, and the worst form of righteousness.

I will note, with some degree of accuracy, that probably most of the presidents we have lost to assassins have been of other faith than that of the ever-pervasive White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. I could be wrong...

But I digress.

To sum up thus far, I applaud the fellow who is launching the campaign to further the separation of Church and State. I still wish that we could get "In God We Trust" stricken from our currency, since it violates the Constitutional guarantee of Separation of Church and State.

Something to ponder. Remember they were afraid of a Godless state? What do we have now? The presence of this God has not improved our quality of life. Our children run amuck without fear of repercussions or reprimand, and no sense of responsibility or reprehension for their actions.

But you know the real killer? I think it's summed up in this bumper sticker I saw once.

Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven.

We have a very large mass of people out there who are convinced that no matter what they do, as long as they repent in the end, they will be allowed to enter their Heaven, because their God will forgive them. What a fantastically irresponsible manner in which to raise children. No wonder we're so screwed up.

I don't know about you, but I know where my own personal heaven and hell are. I also know that if there is a heaven where everyone good goes, I'm sure I will pay you a visit in my own roundabout way before continuing my journey. If you think your journey ends there, you've got a nasty surprise coming to you.

But I digress.

In parting from this diatribe, if you're reading this and you're offended by my comments on God and Godlessness and the fact that yes, even God has a Mother (who's waiting for him to clean up his act, in my opinion!), I have a perfectly good pair of legs by which I will kick that crutch you call "religion" right out from under you and tell you to take responsibility for your own actions.

And I invite you to do the same for me, should I need it. I'm not perfect. I admit it. At least I can. How about you?


Hypocrisy and Change

"Things are seldom what they seem
Skim milk masquerades as cream
Highlows pass as patent leather
Jackdaws strut in peacocks' feathers..."

There are days, and then there are days.

There are days where I wonder how this world has survived thus far.

It's okay for our kids to see war and gratuitous violence and drugs (in spite of "just say no" (or "just fly low", whichever you prefer)) and the six o'clock news.

It's okay for our kids to listen to music of questionable origin which makes overt references to acts of violence against people of other races.

It's okay for our kids to be exposed to constant attitude, and to turn around and give lip to their parents (remember, physical discipline, which is what these little upstarts needed before they got too out of hand and turned into big upstarts, is no longer permitted. Your kid could turn you in for spanking them.).

Heaven forbid they should be exposed to love, tenderness, caring, or (gasp!) public display of affection.

Or, more so, forbid that they should be exposed to "unusual living arrangements." Even if a mother lives in perfect harmony with two other men (or women, for that matter!), it's not all right, because it goes against the "fahn, upstandin' Murkin morrle strutcher" which so many of the blind sheep embrace.

What an amazingly hypocritical society we live in.

We can't leave well enough alone. We don't seem to have enough to do with our lives that we can't pass so much judgment on other people. We can't just let other people live lives without ostracising them for living in unusual harmony.

There's truth out there to the Wiccan law, "an it harm none, do what thou will." As long as you're not hurting anyone, what's the problem?

More of the most stupid conflicts have taken place over some righteous charlatan's stance on morals. It's amazing. Just because one small group of people cannot wrap their minds around the concept of harmony within an alien arrangement, suddenly they have to rally other people to their cause.

And yet, it is permissible for the depression mongers on the six o'clock news to spread doom, depression and other bad feelings to the multitudes, to do everything in their power to keep down the morale of the populace.

I get a lot of funny looks when people find out that I don't watch the news.

And then there's change. People change, and we never see it coming. Sometimes we never see it coming in ourselves. We swear that, after the first time, we'll never ...oh, get married again, for example. ...and along comes someone to sweep us off our feet, and we forget every reservation we had about repeating past mistakes, probably because the person is of sufficient quality of character to make us realise that the past is the past, and that we won't make the same mistakes with this one that we made last time.

Of course, there's always the "Ugh. I'll never do that again", which of course we do again. Seriously, which of us will never party that hard ever again?

It's hard, really, to remain immutable. After all, if you can't change your mind, are you sure you still have one?

Ask yourself this, if you are set in your ways: Could you crawl off, somewhere, knowing that you are a Dinosaur doomed to extinction, and just die in the desert? There are a number of people who could answer yes to this question. There are a number of people who could answer no to this question.

The mind-blower is going to be not how many people fall into either camp, but *which* people fall into either camp.

There are actually times that I feel like a dinosaur. I'm not as abreast of the technology as I could be, largely because I lack the self-discipline to do so. I've always learned better in a group situation. Could I walk out into the desert and lay down and call it? Sometimes. Quite often. I'm content with what I know. I find the world moves too fast for me to keep up. I'll be lucky if I know 10% of what's current by the time I'm 50.

And I'm okay with this, unless you want to come keep me company on a journey to higher learning...


Happy Birthday, Noah and Chris!

This is a special Birthday Edition of the Journeys of the Sound Chaser.

There are two people whom I wish to commemorate here. One of them I know personally, the other I admire greatly. Well, that's not strictly true, of course -- I rather admire both of them, but for different reasons.

The first one is a very dear friend I met at the Renaissance Faire while it was still a good Renaissance Faire, but to further clarify that would be a digression of major proportions. He's a very bright young fellow whom I have known since he was 9 and was just starting to learn how to play the guitar. This year he celebrates his 22nd birthday, and as far as I know he is still going, albeit the last year has moved him farther out of the area.

He has had the knack to eke a recognisable tune out of just about any instrument he would touch (though, truth be told, I don't think I've seen him pick up a wind instrument), ranging from the piano, to the mandolin, to the bodhran (the Irish drum), to the violin, and he has even put together some very interesting mixes on a computer; his styles cover everything from the Beatles, to Bowie, to Led Zeppelin, to Yes and beyond, as well as Irish music. He's in touch with the past, the musical roots, but has the youthful courage to find the good parts of the music of today.

He's one of very few musicians with whom I have worked who has had the uncanny ability to divine when to stop the tune, which tune the leader is going to play next and which harmony to sing -- truly a delightful musician, and a wonderful friend (even if he is out of touch for long periods at a time).

Happy Birthday, Noah!!

The other fellow is someone I have long admired for his adventurous approach to music. While his own compositions strike me as ponderous -- very thoughtful -- in nature, his contributions to the compositions of his other musical compatriates lend themselves well to those compositions. He's a top-notch arranger with a voice capable of covering three and a half octaves (counting his head voice which, thankfully, he's not afraid of using!).

He's been the keeper of the flame for The Best progressive rock group on the planet, none other than Yes, for the last 34 years(!), and he's an excellent composer and performer in his own right.

Happy Birthday to Chris Squire!

Thank you for 34 years of absolutely wonderful music, and may your later years treat you well!

[If you've never listened to Yes, I recommend Close to the Edge (1972), Going for the One (1977), 90125 (1983), Union (1991), Keys to Ascension(the studio tracks) (1995) and The Ladder (1999). If you have listened to them, I recommend that you check out Chris' solo works (which, regrettably, I can count on both thumbs, but they're both up!), Fish Out Of Water (1975) and Conspiracy (2000), the latter of which, strictly speaking, isn't a solo album (he co-conspired with Billy Sherwood, also an excellent musician, but I digress again), but it's non-Yes, and it's extremely well- done.]


"Oh, st - st - st - cut it out! I'm serious!"

-- Porky Pig to Daffy Duck, "Robin Hood Daffy"

And the world is, once again, slightly darker. It got dimmer when Douglas Adams left us last year (to whom my good friend, Ghost Rider, and I, still have a tribute song in process...). It got dimmer when George Harrison left us last year. Before that, it was Phil Hartman, and Jim Varney, and Dr. Seuss, and Mel Blanc, and Jim Henson (with a great many of high significance in between!), and the list goes on. I can even claim some personal ones in my life, and I think they probably make a more profound dent in my consciousness than most of those with theatrical or cinematographic accolades.

This time, it was Chuck Jones' turn to sit under the ridiculously small cocktail umbrella, waiting for the anvil from the sky to land with a self-satisfying TOONK that only a master of animation of Mr. Jones' calibre would appreciate in his final moment.

If only that were the case. Apparently, he passed away from something much more mundane. Congestive heart failure, from what I am told.

From time immemorial (okay, from about 1978), I can remember sitting up on saturday mornings with my Brother and my Dad and, occasionally, my Mom, watching Wile E. Coyote plot various acts of revenge upon that embodiment of pure luck, the Road Runner. The one with all the blueprints -- including the one that came to life and karangued Wile E. upside the head with a blue-printed rock -- is probably the one most vivid in my memory. Other treats, such as Marvin the Martian disintegrating Daffy Duck with a casual ZORCH! from his portable disintegration ray, or the episode in which Daffy Duck is shown being animated (by, as it turns out, Bugs Bunny), became instant hits with my own off-beat sense of humour.

The one which hit my funny bone most recently depicted Sylvester trying, of course, to get Tweety from his cage without getting hopelessly mauled by this ocean of bulldogs. Sylvester's final solution was to paint a white stripe down his back in the hopes of quelling the onslaught -- which it did, only to produce a last-minute cameo appearance by Pépé Le Pew, who has now decided upon the silent -- and apparently skunk-like -- Sylvester as a lust object just before Sylvester can grab the pesky canary. The timing was brilliant, as usual.

All this is to say nothing, of course, of his longer animation achievements, Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi and Gay Purr-ee, the last a full-length feature having been produced in tandem with his wife, Dorothy. There may well be others I have missed.

Chuck Jones and Michael Maltese made the perfect Supervisor/Animator team. Between them there must be at least a score of cartoons to their credit, and there's not a dog in the bunch (outside of the one that keeps popping up and thrashing the tar out of Sylvester, poor hapless feline). Very few people have the gift of timing of being able to affect the public at large so poignantly for such a long period of time.

Chuck made his debut at WB studios, under the tutelage of none other than the first God of Speed Violence, Fred Avery (later billed as "Tex Avery"), and I quite vividly remember seeing Charlie M. Jones as the name on the credits for the cartoon. It was a black-and-white, probably the only one in which I've seen Jones' name listed in the credits. I could be wrong about this, but I'm reasonably sure (without having done extensive literary research) that this is correct. Avery later left Warner Brothers for MGM, where he animated a good many Tom and Jerry cartoons.

Chuck animated Bugs and Elmer a few times, danced Daffy in rings around Bugs, and gave us some of the best gut-busters (the lack of memory of titles for which I apologise profusely) as he began to blur the commonly accepted lines between characters and, as shown in "Duck Amuck", the line between animator and creation.

His most noteworthy contributions were the original characters Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner, Pépé Le Pew, and Marvin the Martian. Backed by musical composer/director Carl Stalling and vocal wizard Mel ("Man of 1,000 Voices") Blanc, he created what were to be some of the most memorable cartoon interactions to hit the screen, including some adventures with the Abominable Snowman ("Gosh, it's hot, George!").

From what I can gather, he took a small breather somewhere in the middle to animate what has become one of the most beloved winter holiday animations, Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas. Narrated (and sung!) by, appropriately, none other than Boris ("Man of 1,000 Faces") Karloff, this gem instantly and irrevocably wove its way into the hearts of young and old alike to be a mainstay of what would otherwise be a trite collection of Christmas animations. Let's face it, how many times can you watch "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" followed by "Frosty the Snowman", followed by "Rudolph and Frosty"? It's enough to make a hairless cat cough up a furball.

Shortly after, he and his wife directed and animated "Gay Purr-ee", a tale of two kitties (actually, a lot of kitties -- the animated cast is entirely feline) in two different worlds; Jaune-Tom (voiced by Robert Goulet), a cat on the French countryside who's content to zero in on mice and leave their senses reeling just before he lets them go; and Mewsette (graced with the voice of Judy Garland), a country cat who has her sights on becoming a high-status cat in Paris. I cannot describe the entire story line here due to the lateness of the hour and the sieve-like nature of my memory of late, so I will leave it as an exercise to the reader to go to their local video store and rent it, or keep an eye on their Extended Basic Cable Channels. Occasionally, Toon Disney will plop it on. Voice talents also include Maurice Chevalier (or is it Robert Jourdan?) and Red Buttons.

Of course, how could I forget the animated interpretation of Rudyard Kipling's Rikki Tikki Tavi? Rikki zips around from scene to scene, nose twitching, eyes twinkling in typical Chuck fashion, as he heads in to eventually take Nag and Nagaina out of the picture. It is a half hour to be remembered.

After that, to be honest, I have no idea what he did. He was almost sixty by that time, so maybe he retired -- after forty years of constant production and collaboration, he certainly deserved it. He was Daffy Duck, having entered the Genie's cave and claimed all the riches, beating Bugs senselessly back into the dirt tunnel from which they had emerged, only to determine that they probably should have taken that left turn at Albukoiky. He was Marvin, disintegrating the foes from the Earth in the name of Mars. He was the Road Runner, always stopping just short of the scheduled désastre du jour.

This year, Wile E. Coyote has caught the Road Runner, and the world is just a small bit dimmer for it. Never mind that nine decades is a good chunk of time to spend on this spinning blue-printed rock.

Here's to you, Chuck. Thanks for giving this world some light and laughter while you were here. May the legacy you've foisted upon us through some dark times see us through many more years.

And to the parents out there: Introduce your kids to the wonderfully zany work of this fellow. It is no less than genius. In these dark, socially uptight times, laughter is of vital importance.


So, What's The Day About, Again?

(It's not what it should be.)

[Sorry, I've been a bit remiss, again. The Great Temporal Devourer has been visiting of late. To catch you up, briefly, I'm employed, somewhat gainfully. I thank whichever deity it was that decided to drop a credit card into my lap, as dangerous as it is. Without it, I'd not be able to fix my car.

But I digress.]

So here I am. February 14th. What's this day for, exactly?

Growing up, I remember it being about colourful pink, red and white cards in the shapes of hearts named after some guy who got sainted after being martyred for some reason. I'll have to re-read the history in order to understand it fully.

I remember it being a day where candy hearts, chocolate-covered cherries, chocolate-covered caramels, chocolate-covered rocks...and, of course, chocolate-covered faces and hands (and clothes!) by the time we were all done.

I liked the cherries and the conversation hearts, myself. I remember when they were made by the Stark Candy Company (recently (as in the last decade or so) eaten by Necco. It could have been worse. It could have been the other way around. But I digress...). DIG IT. YOU'RE COOL. BE MINE. All those quaint little sentiments of which I could neither make heads nor tails.

Of course, I think I was between five and thirteen, a time when sharing things with (ew!) girls was fraught with cooties and who knows what else.

Truthfully, I didn't have a problem with girls back then. Any of them that would give me the time of day were usually okay, and my interest in them was purely on the level of a friendship. I'm beginning to wonder if that's simply the best way to go in the first place.

Now, today, I see Valentine's day, and it's another day, marred only by the marketing campaigns of the Candy, Lingerie and Jewelry companies. It's a pity, these images that are put out regarding how to behave on Valentine's day, as though it were something truly special.

First off, let me point out that if a guy goes shopping for their girl or whomever, if they're picking up any of the aforementioned categories, they're not doing it altruistically. They're not going to give a box of chocolates or a diamond ring/necklace/whatever to their sweetheart purely out of the goodness of their heart. Come on, guys, admit it. You're in it for something. You want your sweetheart to put out. And if you're shopping for racy clothing (if you can call it clothing...), you're really shopping for yourself. You don't want her to appreciate it, you want to appreciate her in it. (For those of you who are same-sex-oriented, please substitute where appropriate above, if you happen to fall into the description. a) I don't mean to slight you. b) You probably have more sense than this anyway.)

If you're going to go shopping for something that has anything to do with her, take her out shopping with you and let her look at things. Pay attention to what she likes. Nothing says you need to pick it up with her still there. Get an attention span.

But I digress.

I guess where I'm going with all this is that I'm still baffled about how most people treat Valentine's day so strangely. If you're single or unattached, chances are that Valentine's day sucks because nobody is going to do anything special with you. If you're attached, and especially if you're a guy attached to a woman, chances are that if you don't do anything special for her, she's going to be very put out.

Now, I'm a hopeless romantic. I'm about as far down that path as they come. I like chick flicks. I can just enjoy spending time with a lady. But no person out there is worth that amount of trouble.

A friend of mine once told me, point blank, that romance is a means of manipulation. The flowers, the chocolates, the nice night out, the champagne, they all have strings attached to them. I had to examine this very closely, and I had to insist that it wasn't true.

But this was four months ago. The more I think about it, the more I think that she had a very valid point. I don't think it's ENTIRELY accurate. I mean, every now and then, it does feel nice to do something sweet for someone else, and it feels nice when someone does it for you, but there cannot be any strings attached. Just take it for what it is -- a nice time for the moment. Enjoy that moment. It doesn't strengthen or weaken what has been or what is to come, per se. One nice night does not a beautiful world make, although I think it helps once in a while.

I also happen to think that Valentine's day should not be used as an excuse for it to happen.

Now, maybe, due to my experiences (or lack thereof) in life, I'm jaded beyond cure.

Something else that's been pounding about my craneum lately has been the fact that we are conditioned to look at a relationship with someone else as an objet d'amour -- just that, an object. Being involved romantically with someone else by and large seems to be an endpoint, a step, a milestone. Once we get the girl/guy, things change. We take each the other for granted.

Why do we do this? Why does a romance carry a different weight than a friendship? By "different", I don't mean "more" or "heavier", because obviously it's going to be heavier. I mean different. We don't go out on the first day of school with the objective of "I'm going to make me some friends". It's something that just sort of happens. You meet people, and you're friends with them, and if you're good friends, your paths in life will overlap. A lot. You will share the a lot of the same bumps in the road, and the laws of physics will apply in the realm of emotional space as well, on occasion ("Two pieces of matter can not occupy the same space at the same time"). But notice that at no time has it ever come into the picture that, "Great, now I have a friend". I'm not saying you won't take each other for granted now and again, but it's less likely to happen with a friend.

I've heard it said that friendships bond much more strongly. I'd like to define that a bit and say that friendships bond not all that deeply, certainly not initially, but it's the breadth of the bond -- how much surface area you share, emotionally and mentally speaking -- which creates the strength.

Now, romantic relationships are almost always treated a bit differently. I think it's something to do with the 'tab A fits into slot B' bit. But while that's within the scope of the relationship, it should not be necessarily a contributing factor. The bond created by such a relation- ship usually initially is not all that broad, yet we allow it to go deeper. This is not a healthy approach, and it is why relationships will go south especially under stress. It gets even worse when the relationship is entered under lust, and you carry it forth when everything else is saying you should let it go.

I'm not all that much for the "dating" scene, certainly not the "I'm going to spend money and try to impress this girl/guy" kind of deal. In fact, honestly, I've been on as many dates as the number of women I've had in my life. I wouldn't know what to do on a date if it was neurologically transmitted to me by someone else.

I mean, is going out, dressed casual, for coffee and sitting and talking really a "date"? I've always been shown that dates involve much primping and preening and face-painting and perfume-spraying and cologne- splashing and spending of money. I can't get into that. It's just not my scene, and to play in that way would be pretending to be something I am not. In short, it's lying. No, thank you.

I'll probably throw on a nicer shirt (but nothing too stuffy), a cleaner pair of jeans, and I might shave, and if the mood suits me, I *might* even braid my hair.

Let's go have some coffee or tea, and talk, and find our differences, our similarities and take it from there. Be my friend. Ask any of the people who are my friends and who have been never more to me than friends, and you will find that I treat them well, by and large (else they wouldn't be friends, of course!). Maybe we can hang out and hack on something, or sing and play some music together.

Help me learn about what I've just said above, as I've been quite guilty of treating a relationship as an endpoint. It's just a friendship with a little more involvement.

Be my friend.

Learn about me.

I'll do my best to do the same.

But I digress.

The best part of this Valentine's day was listening to the gratitude pour forth from my children as they opened a pair of piggy banks and their own boxes of chocolates. No doubt, they'll remember the cute cards with Cinderella and Pokemon and Buzz Lightyear that they'll get from the other kids in their class. They probably aren't even being told what Valentine's day is all about. But that's okay; they'll get that later. They'll meet someone erudite who will be able to tell them who Valentine was, why he was sainted and where the heart came from.

In the meanwhile, they can enjoy the chocolates and the cherries and the candy conversation hearts. Hopefully, they will cherish these memories and expound upon them to their children someday.